25-26 August 2006: The alarm clock rings at 10am but Ploumisti that wakes up wondered asks me why him I put the alarm clock to ring so early... then I realise that her mobile it has he Greek time, meaning + 2 hours!!! It is early; therefore I try to take advantage of the time. Today we will cover the bigger distance that I have ever covered up to now with a motorcycle, from the point that we are up to Ancona. We thought that it is better of doing this route without stopping, since we will gain time. Let’s see, however, what will be our situation when we reach the ship.
At 11am we raise and prepare without any delays. From yesterday we have said that we will drink a coffee in the small state of Andorra. Basically I do not have any idea of how it is; neither have I seen photographs and also reports with regard to this country. I can say that I have the query, but from the other hand I am stressed with the return route. Perhaps what I want to see more from Andorra they are the prices of the motorcyclist products, that as it is said, are low.
Anyway we begin for the small principality. The weather appears to be clear in the point where we are, but to the direction where we want to go it is clouded. The signs lead us to the frontier outpost of the small state, after first we covered 20 kilometres on Spanish territory. The principality of Andorra is extended in a region between tall mountains, something that becomes immediately perceptible as we enter the country. What was strange is the terrible traffic, so much in the entry, as in the exit. Andorra, Spanish and French cars enter and come out. Possibly it has to do with the cheaper petrol, as well as with the trade products.
Mixed in the traffic we continue for Vella Andorra. At some point we stop in a shop with motorcyclist types, but there is not something appreciable and mainly being in an interest price! Maybe the particular shop does not constitute the representative sample. We ask for Daynesse and they told us to go to the main shop in the city. We begin for there, with a view to check the prices. In the city, the houses have black and grey rooftops, in an abrupt conical form - for protection from the snow – we find traffic jam! Such a small country and has traffic jam!!!
Before we visit the shop, we make a small stop for coffee and something to eat. Our misfortune is that food it is allowed to be served after 1pm. while the hour is quarter to 12. Who can wait for so long? We drink a coffee and begin to go to the shop. From a first view it appears to have good prices, but as we seek specific models, that we know the prices, then we realise how low the prices are there.
After the formal statute and acquaintances with the owner, in case we want to order something from the internet, we begin to cross the small state. Hardly have we come out from the limits of the city we stop for fuel, since we do not know what we will meet later on and also it is better to pay the fuel cheaper here than in France which is expensive. The fuel costs 1euro/litre.
I switch on the ipack and I realise that we are already in an altitude of 1.500m, while we are away from the city for only one kilometre! Let’s see in which altitude we will reach... We continue and we find 1-2 villages that as it appears constitute wintry destinations. The rain that falls and the relatively low temperature give you the feeling that it is winter. In the second village that we meet, the map shows that it will be the one before the last before we leave from this small state. The street that crosses Andorra does not exceed the 40km, while there are 2 alternative ways: one that passes from the mountain top 2.409m and the one via a tunnel that takes you on the French territory. As it appears, we will prefer the first choice.
We stop in a building where some workers make constructions. Ploumisti asks one of them for a restaurant and he replies that we will find 1-2, roughly 1km further down. We continue with the rain accompanying us. We stop in front of one that does not appear to have many people, but there is a plate that informs that the shop has amazing view! Let’s enjoy the last dinner... We park our motorcycles and we enter in the restaurant.
Indeed, the store has a big window with a view the slopes of the mountain that are found precisely opposite! Amazing! From the configuration, we understand that this slope, when it is covered with snow, it constitutes a ski track for lovers of winter sports! A small river crosses the small green field that takes shape in their foot. The restaurant graphical and as you enter it smells timber, that reminds taverns in mountainous villages! I feel that the heat of Morocco and of Andalusia has passed away... We order 2 menu and we enjoy the view with the companion of rain...
The hour approaches 4am. when we finish the food and decide to leave. Fortunately, the rain has stopped and every now and then you can distinguish light blue sky in the horizon. I wish the weather is good to where we want to go. We begin our trip and we wear our raincoats just in case. The road continues uphill, and it is wide. The road paving is very good. After 2-3km we meet the signs of the node for the passages via the tunnel - paying the relative compensation - and through the Port D'Envalira (near the top). The weather appears to become better therefore we follow the distant way via the top passage!
The street is enough good and wide. At some points the turns are U turns. In short time we reach in the top point of our way, in which we meet a gas station, a cafeteria and various vehicles that they have parked so that they take some photographs... something that we also do. This point is named Port D'Envalira and constitutes the passage in an altitude of 2.408m!!! First time I reach in such altitude with vehicle and it is the higher altitude that I have reached personally.
The landscape is impressive! There are not any trees only that grass that covers as a green veil the mountains that are found all around! The fog that is distinguished in the opposite mountain resembles like white tobacco, like something is burning! The temperature, the clouded over sky that in some points has light blue openings and the wetted paving all together give one particular stroke of the brush in the landscape! The steppes of Morocco are only found in the past only few days before! It is impressive that in such a little time period we changed so much latitudes and magnitude, as well as temperatures and altitudes!!!
We continue following a downhill course with destination the borders. I can say that at this point we met enough motorcycles proportionally with the kilometres that we covered. Probably it is one of the most known motorcyclist ways. As we continue we find fog that prevents us from seeing more than 3-4 metres away. Moreover, in the route there are some lines of bitumen that slip too much if you make the error and step on them
RETURN TO ANCONA:
The last frontier town is the Pas de la Casa. As we go down from the high point, I see many cars and people that go in and out in the commercial centres. Probably, because Andorra is a cheaper market, each Saturday they come from the around regions in order to make their shopping of the week. As we pass through the centre, I see people that fill their cars with foods and all kinds of shopping. That’s why we found an increased traffic as we entered in this small state, in the streets near the commercial regions. In the end of the town, we meet the frontier-customs station of Andorra and further down the France borders, having both a decorative character!
On French territory, henceforth, we continue our way following the signs for Bourg-Madame and Perpignan. The road is not so good - for the European and especially for the French aspects. Patches and asphalt of not such a good quality make their appearance in a relatively difficult part on the route, especially now that the weather has burdened a lot and I do not want to think what waits for us further!
Some kilometres later at the village Porte-Puymorens my weather forecasts are confirmed and in particular in the worse degree! It begins, simultaneously, a rain and a fog!!! The roads with a lot of turns and the cars have shaped big queues covering a way of 30-40km that seems that has not an end!!! For the first time in the travel we find so much rain, with fog, in our last day at which we have aim to cover 1.300km!
Patiently we continue on the route, searching for a restaurant to stop in the villages that we meet. At a specific point we see a sign. We enter in the village, while in the end of street - in bus stop - they have stopped 2 motorcyclists until the storm stops...Will it stop however? Anyway, we enter in the village but the restaurant is closed and in the village nothing is moving! We return in the main street and we continue. Fortunately, the queue of vehicles has advanced front, therefore we drive easily. The rain, however, continues in the same rhythm...
The meteorological phenomena blow out by approaching the village Ur, where we see also after a long time people in the streets. With intervals of drizzle rain we continue for Perpignan. The landscape is nice, but I do not have the change to enjoy it since I have entered in the process of return. The previous intense rain with has tired me and what I want is we come out in the motorway and to stop in the first gas station for a coffee and reorganizing. Up to there they remain around in 60-80km.
I observe the horizon to the direction where we move and with joy I realise that to there the weather is good. From the mirrors I see the "blackness" from which we came out! Both of them give me the courage to continue for different reasons. At 7am. we enter in motorway A9 with direction to Narbonne and Montpellier. The weather has changed henceforth, while the speed where we moved helps us to dry. In the first gas station having a cafeteria that we find we make a stop for a coffee. Despite the discomfort and the rain that we face I do not feel tired, on the contrary I have an appetite for the kilometres that follow...
Henceforth the way that we follow up to the Italian borders is same with the one that we came: Montpellier Nimes > Arles > Aix En Provence > Cot d'Azur > Nice > Monaco. We make stops for fuel supplies roughly per 220-240km that I arrange to be in the middle of this range, so as to make a stop and relax every 100km. Where we stop we meet motorcyclists that from the clothing, their stuff and their plates I try to think from how far they come where they go. An amusing game...
Substantially, up to Nimes we find traffic, while the route that we follow to Arles has not so much traffic. Most people are moving to central and northern France. After Aix-en-Provence the street becomes more deserted, while as we cross the part of the Azure Coast (French) we have the occasion to enjoy once more the illuminated coastal cities Saint Tropez, Saint Raphael, Antibes, Nice, Monaco... Menton town constitute the last French city while the Ventimiglia is the first Italian. The problem that we face in this phase is the lack of cash. We have some money which is enough for the French tolls, but not for the Italian.
We do not know if we can make use of credit card in order to pay. I believe that when we came I saw that they accept credit cards, in contrary to the French tolls that they do not accept credit cards Visa and/or Visa Electron. If finally we see that they do not accept the card, we will stop in any gas station or city that has ATM to withdraw some cash. As we enter on Italian territory I realise that we have around 650-700km up to Ancona’s port. The time is 3am in the morning and we have 13 hours up to the departure of the ship. We have enough time in order to drive with comfort and without stress. I enter in the first gas station that we meet and I go straight for one Italian panino... What precisely I need! With the occasion I throw also a glance in the map, so that we do not make the same error we did when we came and go again via Genoa. It is supposed to take the direction for Alessandria after we pass Savona. I leave the map in Ploumisti in order to check the route. It is supposed we full our motorcycles untill Savona.
We begin... In the Savona we make an error and Ploumisti follows the motorway A6 for Torino, leaving prematurely the coastal A10 (continuity of French A9). This error charges us with 150km more. The worse thing is that the A6 is not such a busy road and we forced to cover 35 and more kilometres until we find an open gas station after first we find one closed – which stress us that we will run out - and we move in a mountainous way incredible cold.
In the next gas station we put fuel for 1euro/litre! The employee says to us that it is preferable to continue our way via Torino, than to return in the coastal street. Without second thought and unhappy we continue our solitary course with the cold becoming perceptible for good! There are points that I can not bear the cold, despite the additional clothes that I have worn. The positive thing is that the tolls accept the Ploumisti’s card therefore we have enough money until the ship.
We pass outside Torino and continue for Alessandria (A21). In this point I had an adventure at the tolls. Ploumisti passes first paying with her card and I say to her to pay also with her card, so as to save some money for the ship. Unfortunately, however my effort is unsuccessful, so much with my own card, as with Ploumisti’s card so that the machine returned the ticket and took a professional photograph of me!!! Now what happens? I have to pay a fine? We stop and we ask an employee that is found there. The situation has as follows: In case you do not have to pay on the spot the tolls, you take the ticket and - from any point inside or outside Italy – you put the money in a banking account or you send by post in a specific address within a specific time limit. The employee explains to us that it is usual phenomenon. I do not take the responsibility for making this way of payment, since I do not know if finally the money reaches where and when it should. Therefore, so as not to pay any fine for 23 Euros I pay in cash I took the receipt and we continue the trip.
Passing outside Alessandria the sun slowly comes out. The cold, however, I still cannot bear it despite the fact that I have worn also the raincoat! We stop in a gas station in order to put fuel and drink a coffee, but the cafeteria is still closed. The hour is 6am. The sun strikes us straight in the eyes and already it has begun to bother me and to make driving difficult... something that I was afraid that it will happen and will become bad as long as the hour passes, having also in our back long times of insomnia! Continuing in the motorway A21 we reach in Piacenza and continue for Parma >Bologne> Ancona via motorway A1.
The driving, henceforth, has become difficult and with difficulty we cover 100km between each stop. Some moments the eyes with difficulty are kept open... When I stop I throw water in my face and the situation is improved somehow but no for a long time. It is confirmed what I said that it was supposed to have reached at Ancona, early in the morning so that we do not be affected so much by the sun! Unfortunately, after the error that we made it is impossible! Another thing that is strange is the amount of people that we found in the cafeterias that are found in the gas stations that we stop. An amount of groups constituted from old people that have submerged all the cafeterias on the route. Finally, in the last stop before we reach Ancona, we take a coffee from the automatic vending machine that the gas station has avoiding the big queues.
In the last stop, 100km, roughly before the port, we meet also 5 Greeks with motorcycles that also go for the ship. We close an appointment in the ship... At 2pm. we reach Ancona and we direct in the coastal street of the city in order to eat something before we enter the ship. Pasta and seafood constitute the last dishes before we leave. Next to us seats a pair of Greek motorcyclists that also have their last Italian dinner. >From the few that I hear these people have been moving in the northern Italy and Austria... I do not know why but I do not have a mood for conversation... Perhaps because I do not want to realise that the trip came to an end.
At 4pm we enter in the ship after first we checked-in. The ship’s employers they do not tie up the motorcycles. Finally, I find the person in charge and it gives a command to tie up our motorcycles as well as the Italian’s that are found next to us. In no case I do not want to have adventures. After I make sure that everything is all right with the tying, I go up to find Ploumisti. For our good chance we find space in the aeroplane seats. For our good chance, one more, one Italian gives us also a pump to inflate the mattress!!! We make one small walk in the ship and we meet also the Italian with the machine next to ours. I say to him that everything is ok. We speak a little for their travel and them I give them some information on the routes that they want to make in Peloponnesus and Crete... We eat something in the deck where swimming-pool is found and Ploumisti goes for sleep, while I prefer to remain and see the sunset...
Pictures come in my brain. Pictures of people, landscapes and routes. Different cultures and civilisations. A travel that seemed difficult came to an end. I try to think a summary of the route for someone who might ask me... What I realise is that there are so many things that I saw that it is impossible to make it short... The narration of a summary could take many hours, perhaps even days!